A NOBLE WORK
Joseph Azize Page
A Noble Work
In Part One, I present some edited extracts from a meeting with George Adie at Newport, on Thursday 12 March 1987, with as little comment as possible. To make clear what comes directly from Mr Adie, and what does not, I offer some reflections in Part Two.
Joel spoke first. “Each day this week, when I’ve done my preparation, I’ve then made my plan for the day; and that has included taking a moving stop each hour on each hour, while I’m at work. I’ve noticed two things in particular. The first is that it helps me during the whole of the day, and I think about it not only on the hour, but also at other times, I might look at my watch, and it keeps me a little bit closer to some more conscious state. And the second thing is that I clearly realise that too often my efforts are only in the head. I found that what was happening was I might check my watch, or it might be the hour, and I would simply think about making an effort or taking a moving stop, and then go back to what I was working on. And the last few days, on some occasions, I’ve at the times –”
Mr Adie then asked: “Did you say, ‘taking a moving stop’? Exactly what do you mean by that?”
“Well, not to actually disrupt my work, for instance, if I was writing, not to stop writing, but to try to –”
“That is interesting, isn’t it? Something is possible there, because nothing ever stops. Everything is moving, everything is going away. There are impulses, but between the impulses there are also movements, yes. Good.
“This is a sort of first step to a different state. A different state means work on a higher level. You see, if there’s no intention, there’s no work. If you realise that, you cannot bear to live without any intention, which means to say that you are just a thing. But you realise that there has to be intention and there has to be work. I intend to do or not do.
“What you describe is very important, and it’s good. It begins to make a continuity, it begins to make a sort of connection between now and then, because with the law of cause and effect, now will produce a certain result.
But there’s a great mystery there. I begin to sense a different kind of life, I begin to sense a different kind of experience, quite different inside. I’m writing, but there’s something else, and that’s related to something which I manage to glimpse or formulate. It’s related to a realm which isn’t confined to this writing that I’m doing. So there are two lives simultaneously, the very necessary practical life of writing or boiling an egg or something; and there’s another life; and they’re related.”
Later in the meeting, Humbert said that he seemed to get to a stage of observing himself, but didn’t seem to want to go any deeper. Mr Adie asked him for an example. Humbert replied: “Yes, last week I had an argument with my mother. I saw her as interfering with my life, although I knew that in a way she was right. And I saw how my face changed, my posture changed, and my tone of voice changed, and all this commotion going on. And I saw this, but I couldn’t change it, and I didn’t know where it was coming from.”
“I have to go through that, ponder on it, when could I do something about it? What could I do? I want to go over it. It’s like a contest, where I realise that at one moment I have an opportunity, but I didn’t take any advantage of it. And I realize that that’s something to watch for.”
Humbert mentioned that this type of thing happened frequently with his mother. Incidentally, although Humbert was an adult, he had moved back home with his mother, who was also in the groups, although she attended a different meeting. Knowing this, perhaps, Mr Adie replied: “Yes, well it has a history. It’s a bad one, isn’t it? What is necessary is to try and stabilize yourself, and then get quiet, and then bring this happening in front of you, truly, and then be prepared to suffer it. Go through it. If you like, make yourself repeat it. How could I? Yes, but somehow to face it, to suffer for it, intentionally. Find your own way how to. It is something that you cannot leave. Your mother’s there, and hopefully she will be for many years. And you are there too, and you don’t want to leave, so there it is. There’s a very definite obstacle there. Bring it to you, prepare, bring it to you without alteration, without lying. See, repeat the foul thing, until you’re sick. Do something.”
“This is the problem, I push it to the side.”
“I know, that’s why I say don’t try and change it. Face it. Make yourself face it. Make yourself. You know what you do with a cat when it messes in the room? You take it by the back of the neck, and you rub its nose in it. And the cat understands that. It generally is enough, once. Now you want to do the same with yourself, with this animal which is so filthy. You would reap benefits: you could achieve something. And you have examples of it, so you don’t lack the material. I think you have something to work on there, you could do quite a good bit of work there.
“What we don’t realize is that the whole of life is confrontation, or could be. Confrontation can be of two kinds: conscious and unconscious. Conscious confrontation is wonderful, it’s the third force between the presence of my life circumstances and the presence of a becoming-man. Do I confront this issue, intelligently, feelingly, consciously, deliberately, or do I disappear into dreams, complaints, negative emotions, and project a world of unfairness? I wish to confront whatever is there, including my own lack of responsibility. I begin to live then, begin to receive. All the life forces on different levels coming in; some marvellous life forces come in.
“We need choice, and because we’ve got a mind, it makes all the difference. Plants respond: a plant in an unfavourable position will lean right over. A plant in a dark place will find the sun, reaching out, elongating its stock to get there. All nature is doing that. So what about us? Our response must be with some intention, otherwise we just remain a vegetable or animal, or something: two brained. All the time and on every level there’s confrontation: it is the law. That is to say, we’re receiving influences all the time. Different influences, different densities, including ideas and higher ideas, ideas specially sent, all this is our life material, and we live looking in dark holes, instead of being open.
“I have to build up a centre of choice, and that’s a noble work. And if I do, I actually reduce, by some small degree perhaps, the negative force. I do a little bit of the transformation of negative into positive, you see, which is part of the work of the creation and of maintaining the world. And you see, many people here have testified to the truth of this, because under very difficult circumstances, they’ve found that there is this reality, this realization of the gift of life, and so on.”
At first I had called this blog “A higher level of work”, intending to take as the theme Mr Adie’s answer to Joel. The question and the answer together seem to me to present a very practical way of working which anyone could participate in, given only a little will power. Neither that exchange, nor the one with Humbert seem to require any explanation. But there is something I think I can now add, with the benefit of 20 years’ experience since that meeting.
It seems to me that a major problem with us is that we identify with our tensions. I call them “our” tensions loosely, but we are responsible for them, even if our work is to dissolve them. We are so used to certain low- and middle-level tensions in the body, feeling and mind that we take them as being how we are when we’re normal, when we’re “ourselves”. Chiefly, only unusually bad tensions are recognized as anomalous, or as something impinging upon “my good state”.
It never ceased to startle me when Mr or Mrs Adie would say in a preparation, “I relax my thoughts” or “I relax my feelings”. It seems illogical: how can a thought or a feeling, concepts without any discernable material extension, be tense? Yet there is an inner movement of relaxation which corresponds to the instruction. So it isn’t nonsense, it is wisdom: an understanding which surpasses logic.
Relaxation is an opening to the possibility of movement. Tension is a restriction of movement. The power of choice is a power to exercise reason and then to freely move or assent in accordance with that reason. So the “noble work” Mr Adie referred to, the development of the power of choice, requires relaxation, and most frequently, it requires relaxation in thought and feeling. Although he never used these very words, my view is that one of Gurdjieff’s great insights is that physical relaxation can remove the foundations of the tensions in thought and feeling, and so facilitate their relaxation. But if I am identified with those tensions of thought and feeling, no amount of physical relaxation will be of much help to me. If I do not see that I am tense, why would I ever choose to relax?
Joseph Azize has published in ancient history, law and Gurdjieff studies. His first book The Phoenician Solar Theology treated ancient Phoenician religion as possessing a spiritual depth comparative with Neoplatonism, to which it contributed through Iamblichos. The second book, “Gilgamesh and the World of Assyria”, was jointly edited with Noel Weeks. It includes his article arguing that the Carthaginians did not practice child sacrifice.
The third book, George Mountford Adie: A Gurdjieff Pupil in Australia represents his attempt to present his teacher (a direct pupil of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky) to an international audience.The fourth book, edited and written with Peter El Khouri and Ed Finnane, is a new edition of Britts Civil Precedents. He recommends it to anyone planning to bring proceedings in an Australian court of law.